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Zander looked at Grant, he could see the look in his eyes. He knew what that look meant, Zander had held the same look in his eyes before. He knew what killing meant, what it did to a person, and he knew that Grant knew as well. He didn't know if Grant knew what it did to tell another person- someone who you want to view you only in the best light.
Marilyn stared at Grant, confusion running through her mind. She had never seen him like this before, this scary look in his eyes didn't sit well with her. She went toward Sophie, there was fear in her eyes, but no longer was it fear of the strange man. She wasn't worried about him, he couldn't get through Grant and Zander, she knew that much. "Why does he look like that?" she asked Sophie, her voice quiet.
Zander looked back at Marilyn, he didn't know how she would handle being told about Grant killing this man. He knew the fear of not knowing how to tell Sophie, and she took the news fairly well. Some people could never handle the news, or at least take it much worse than Sophie did. He walked over to his Princess, "Sophie, Is this the man you saw earlier?" he said quietly, "I want you and Marilyn to go outside. Find a guard and stay with them." He kissed her cheek. Marilyn looked to Sophie, she was too afraid to know what to do.
Sophie followed Zander to the door of their room. “I currently don’t trust her but that just makes me all the more weary. You talk to the captain and I’ll find Marilyn.” She was about to leave but stopped when she saw that the leaf fox kit had wedged itself halfway under a bookshelf and had fallen asleep. Sophie sighed. “Silly fox.”
Fern woke up and squirmed as Sophie tried to gently pry the fox free. “Shh…It’s alright little one. How on earth did you get stuck under there?” Finally the wining squirmy kit was free. Sophie stroked Fern’s ears before setting her pet down on a pillow. “Okay, you’re taken care of now where was I?” Sophie grabbed her sword then headed down the hall determined to go check the garden first for Marilyn.
The man laughed again. “Is that the best thing you could think to say. ‘I have no right to lock you up here.’ What a hoot! Diplomacy won’t get you very far this time princess. Not unless you’re singing the right notes.” He took one quick step towards Marilyn but jumped back when Zander broke through the door. His face flashed a worried frown but it turned to pleasant confusion.
“Ah, Prince Zander what a pleasant surprise. I half expected that wrenched Severijan prince to be the one to burst in.” The man scanned Zander up and down, lowering his sword ever so slightly. He even leaned to look around Zander. “Hmm…two princes that have managed to misplay their princesses. That might just be an all-around worse record. Where’s Sophie? Don’t tell me the she’s tired of having you around?”
The guards at the castle gate leapt clear of the charging horse. They managed to scurry back to their feet and proceeded to chase down the rider. Grant dismounted by the front steps. A few neko guards ran to restrain him. They had the right to be concerned as Grant’s entire demeanor had changed from kind and happy to dark and deadly during his time away. They had always been afraid of the man from Severijan but they were convinced he had finally revealed his true self.
Grant was having none of this. “Where is she? Let me through!” He shoved the guards down before racing into the castle. “Marilyn! Marilyn where are you? Marilyn!”
Meanwhile Sophie had heard the crash Zander had made when had broken through the door to the library. The neko princess broke into a run, her hand resting on the sword hilt as she followed the noise. The only room in that part of the castle that would have anyone there to make such a racket was the library. That much she was certain off. However, her ears flicked towards the direction of a new sound causing momentary confusion. Was that Grant? Sophie rounded the corner only to collide head on with the other prince. The pair tumbled to the ground.
Grant was barely phased. He picked himself of only asking one question. “Where is she?”
Sophie managed to squeak out one word “Library.” Grant tore off again leaving Sophie to scramble to her feet and chase after him. Soon the prince rushed through the broken doors of the library. His piercing eyes feel on the man. The strange man was even more unsettled. He took several steps back from the grey skinned man.
“Zander,” Grant growled, “kindly escort Marilyn out of here.” He wasn’t about to let his love see what he was about to do to this man before them. He’d explain everything later but for the time being he was going to make sure the man paid for threatening Marilyn and her family.
Sophie rounded the corner into the room. She was out of breath and didn’t like the situation she had found herself in. “Marilyn are you alright?” Sophie turned, her face visibly paling at the sight of the man. The strange man regained his composure. “Well, looks like everyone is here. Good, makes my job that much easier.” He took one step towards Marilyn, his eyes never leaving the two princes.
Zander did some thinking about the situation with Veronica. "I'm not sure what to think of the situation with Veronica. Her actions earlier were unexplained, but I'm not sure how they would prove that she could be their informant. I'm sure they tried to get at someone we trust, do you trust Veronica?" he asked her.
"I'll talk to Captain Thomas, maybe see what information I can get. It would probably be best for you to talk to Marilyn about all of this as well. If I run into Grant before Marilyn tells him I'll try to tell him also." He stood up, his typical posture returning. He was stiffer than usual though, still doing his best to keep his emotions under control. He was lucky his magic wasn't working very well here, or it might not have ended this well.
Zander walked out of the room and headed down the halls looking for Captain Thomas. He didn't know the castle well enough to really understand where the Captain would be, so he wandered around the castle looking for the man.
Marilyn jumped at the thunk of the locking door. "Why did you do that?" she asked him. She was scared, but she tried to hide it and to show confidence, hoping it would make the man back down. It didn't work as well as she hoped, and the fear started to show when his sword was out.
"You have no right to keep me locked up in here," Marilyn said, her voice strong. She was a princess after all, one day to be a queen, and she had power within her and it resonated in her voice. Although, that didn't work so well when she wasn't respected.
Zander couldn't find Captain Thomas anywhere, and after talking with one of the guards he found that the Captain was not currently available. Something about his wife being ill. After leaving the guard Zander continued looking around the castle. He came to the first pair of shut doors he had seen in a long time, clearly they did not lead to a bedroom.
He pressed his ear up against the door, listening hard to try to make out what was going on behind the door. He was able to access some of his magic, using it to listen through the door. He could make out Princess Marilyn's voice, and she sounded distressed.
He backed up from the door, his hand going to the sword at his belt. Even though the doors were locked, they weren't hard to break open. It was loud and his sword was drawn fast. Keeping this other man's sword away from Marilyn.
Marilyn heard another crash and jumped, but was relieved to see it was Prince Zander. Part of her wished that Grant had come through the door, that some how he knew what was going on here. She shook the thought from her head and stepped back to allow Zander room.
She had never felt so much tension between two people. The elven Prince was clearly a skilled warrior. She had heard many others sing his praise, but had never realized how true it was. He was perfect for Sophie, seeming to be the kind of guy who needed someone like her.
He turned to look at her. "Princess Marilyn," he spoke, his voice calm, "What's going on here? Are you hurt?"
Marilyn shook her head, "I'm not quite sure," she told him. "I'm alright, but I don't know who this man is. At first I thought he was a member of your guard, but now I don't believe that's true."
"I didn't bring any staff," Zander answered before turning back around to face the man. "What do you want?" he asked, trying to get what information he could.
Sophie smiled at Zander and gave a quick nod of her head. Brain storming a list of people would at least allow them put their minds on something other than their shattered emotions. It also made them a team again. They had to solve this issue together. Sophie laced her finger with Zander’s.
“The first four people we met were Captain Thomas, Violet our head maid, Heather and Lillian. Out of those we should be concerned about Violet and Captain Thomas. Everyone in their division of castle staff reports to them.” Sophie’s ears tilted to back and forth to figure out something. “I think Veronica doesn’t like me anymore. She was got along with me before I left for Cadeweth but now I’m certain she doesn’t like me.”
Sophie stood up and began pacing the floor. “I could talk with Violet. She loves to gossip so I am certain I could get information out of her. You could go talk to Captain Thomas. Talk about warrior training and you might be able to squeeze a confession out of him. That might not be that suspicious.” Sophie sighed. Diplomacy was not something she was accustom to and needed to learn quickly. “Maybe if Marilyn and Grant talk to them they won’t suspect a thing.”
“I would think the prince would know better than to leave his princess all alone. These are dangerous times.” The man walked past Marilyn and over to the door. He didn’t open it. A deep ‘thunk’ rang out in the air as the doors were locked. The man turned around smiling wickedly. “I’m glad Grant is gone. Now you have no one to run to your rescue.”
The man laughed loudly. “Don’t even think about calling for the captain. He is otherwise disposed of.” He pulled out a bottle from a jacket pocket a shook the liquid around. “It seems his young wife has become quite ill. She will survive, most likely. Now back to the matter at hand.”
The strange man pulled out his sword and limply held it out to point at Marilyn. “I wonder what your prince will do for your safe return. We know what his weakness is now. The disgraced prince with a soft spot, not a very violent fellow. Perhaps we could convince him to join us. His people would be a powerful ally in our plans to take Cadewth. What do you think little princess? Are you scared?”
Zander looked at her, thinking about the people they could trust and the people they couldn't. He still had a nagging feeling in his gut about Captain Thomas, but all of his senses were thrown haywire from his emotions. He was still working on getting this sadness in check. Once he did it would be easier for her.
He nodded slowly, her spark of hope raising his spirits, "That could work. It'd take a lot of thinking, but I think we could do it." He tried to think about the people he had talked to but his mind was still so clouded that nothing was completely clear. He took a few deep breaths, trying hard to get his emotions in check.
He felt a tang of anger in him. This is why warrior don't fall in love, and he broke that part of the code. He gave it up without a second thought. His mind headed toward regret, but he stopped it. He would do anything for Sophie, even if it meant giving up being a warrior. He couldn't let his emotions weaken him, and he had to find a way to use them.
He was still working on it.
Something definitely didn't feel right about this man. Marilyn knew that much, but she didn't know what she could do. She backed up as he drew closer to her, but his words and his demeanor... he could have been a guard from Cadeweth. His clothes didn't match Prince Zander's, but Zander was a Prince, this man probably wore a standard uniform, right?
She was trying to convince herself. She tried so hard to have this all make sense in her head, but it just was not working. This man just didn't seem right. Cadeweth was powerful, and that made them terrifying, but the elves were definitely not rough and mean people. They were tough, but tended to be kind and polite. At least, that's what Marilyn knew. They were harsh, but they were good.
The man asked where Grant was and from all the thoughts running through her head, her mind blanked slightly. "I... I don't know," she said, and when she remembered she added, "He went to take care of something. He didn't tell me anything else." She didn't add anything about how he seemed uneasy earlier in the day. This unfamiliar man did not need to know that.
Sophie sat up when Zander returned. She shook her head as she gently took his hand. “Please don’t leave. If…if you leave Lirakin then I’m coming with you.” She rested her head on Zander’s shoulder. Her eyes were too dry and tired for anymore tears. She just let the silence envelope them.
She sighed and stood up to gaze out the window. “We can trust Grant and Marilyn, I agree. I also know the informant cannot be my mother or father. That’s four we can trust. Six if we include the king and queen. It’s not much but we stand a chance this way. I think we might be able to find the informant. We just have to be absolutely certain we found them.”
Sophie was desperate to cling on to a bit of hope. She thought that maybe if she could muster up some optimism Zander would start to feel better too. She sat down next to Zander once again. “Do you think that, maybe just maybe, if we try to remember everyone we have met and everything they have said since we got to Lirakin we could find clues? It’s a long stretch but is there anyone in the castle you have a bad feeling about?”
Grant raced through the trees following the trail. He wasn’t certain what he would find at the end but he mentally prepared himself for the possibility of multiple foes. When the prince found the campsite it was deserted. From the wrinkled sleeping pack tossed by a bush, there had been only one inhabitant. Grant dismounted and began to rummage around the remaining belongings. One hand rested on his dagger. Whoever was here before him hadn’t left long before Grant arrived and would probably be returning soon.
There were several tiny empty glass bottles. Grant picked up one and smelled the traces of its contents. His nose wrinkled at the unpleasant bitter odor. “Poison.” Grant set the bottle down exactly how he found it. No reason to tip of the owner that his hideout had been discovered. Grant wander back over to his horse when something caught his eye.
The prince from Severijan pushed through the thick brush towards the shining spot that had previously caught his eye. On the top of the small hill was a spyglass. Who would leave a perfectly good telescope in the middle of the woods? Grant checked the surrounding before bending down to look through the device. He could have sworn his heart stop for a good minute when he saw what was on the other side. The spyglass was pointing straight at Lirakin’s castle. Grant broke into a run to reach his horse before mounting and sending it in a full gallop back the way he came. “Please, be safe. Don’t let anything have happened to her.” There was a murderous glint in Grant’s amber eyes that no amount of worry could hide.
The man casually looked up from his book before setting it down and raising to his feet. “Princess Marilyn what a pleasant surprise.” He gave a deep slow bow. He chuckled at her comment. “Yes, well one would expect royalty to travel with additional staff. We were hoping to keep that quiet though. Given the tension between the kingdoms we couldn’t have Cadeweth looking paranoid, could we?” He walked slowly over to Marilyn.
His eyes scanned her calculatedly. “May I ask what brings you to the library all alone? I would have thought the Severijan prince would have been with you.” The man was within a few feet from Marilyn. While he appeared calm and friendly, his ora was flooding the air with a sense of dread. “Where is Prince Grant?” he asked darkly.
Zander took his time getting back to their room. His heart was heavy, he felt all around exhausted. The description of the man really didn't help much, it could have been anyone. He didn't want to put Sophie's loved ones in danger, and would leave if that is what he had to do. With this, and the war in Grath, he didn't know if he would be able to keep everything in check.
Zander made it to their room and opened the door. His posture was slouched and his eyes were dark. He tried to straighten up some for Sophie, but he could only do so much. He didn't feel like a warrior right now, and he didn't hold the image of one either. He couldn't keep these emotions locked up inside.
He made his way to Sophie, sitting down on the bed beside her. "What should we do?" he asked, his voice low. "I can leave Lirakin," he told her, "Maybe if we pretended to call off the engagement it would be enough for them. I think we need to find someone we can trust, Grant and Marilyn? If whoever did this finds me investigating they'll know you told. It may be too risky."
Marilyn watched Grant leave then headed back inside the castle to find Sophie. It was still difficult for her not to tell Grant the truth about Sophie, even though she knew that Zander knew everything. She didn't know how he would react, but didn't want to keep the sever from the man she loved.
Marilyn found one of the castle's servants and asked if they had seen Sophie. She still couldn't find her friend, and no one really seemed to know where she had gone. Marilyn decided to go into the library for a while. She opened the door and inside was a man she had never seen before, but he definitely wasn't a neko.
The man was reading a book, he looked like he could be a guard. "I didn't know Prince Zander was accompanied," she addressed the man, assuming he was with the foreign Prince. She couldn't quite place this feeling of uneasiness she felt around him though.
Sophie closed her eyes, thinking hard. "He...he wasn't a neko. I can't tell if was an elf or human. I could see his ears." Sophie opened her eyes. "He was tall and muscular. His face was scruffy and he looked like he hadn't slept in a week. That's all I remember... I'm sorry it's not much."
Sophie nodded solemnly. She turned and headed back to the castle. Every few steps, the princess looked back over her shoulder. Today should have been a special day but now it was one she'd rather forget.
Captain Thomas eyes grew wide at the news. "She what! Is something wrong, Prince Zander? I can't imagine her parents dissaproving the union. They sang your praise when I saw them." The neko warrior was confussed. He simply nodded to Zander and walked off. It wasn't his place to get involved but the sudden turn around of wanting a ceremony to cancelling it was concerning.
Meanwhile, Sophie had returned to her room. She laid on her bed, face buried in the plush pillow. Her stomach felt queezy and her heart was heavy. Sophie wanted to vanish, hide from all her troubling emotions. All she could do was wait for Zander to return.
Grant wandered around the garden with Marilyn. He nodded absently but din his best to remember all of the names. "I'm not sure. I will do all in my power to make sure you are able to visit your home as often as possible. Father will not be pleased but I don't care."
Grant scanned the garden. At that moment Sophie was returning to the castle. Her expression did not sit well with Grant. "Marilyn, there is something I must take care of. Nothing you need to worry about, my dear." He kissed her fingers while meeting her eyes. "Go find your sister. I'll be back shortly."
Grant excussed himself from her company and headed to the stable. The stablehands blinked at the prince as he saddled and mounted a horse. The prince headed out of the castle grounds and followed the wall. He had a weird gut feeling that told him to do his own patrols of the ground. It made little sense in his mind but his warrior training assured him it would be worth his time.
Grant rode in silence until he reached the servants gate. He paused to watch the staff. Load and unload carts. Most of the supplies were for the up coming ball. He nodded respectfully at the sevent and contiued on. That was when he saw it, a pair of foot prints heading into the trees insteas of the path towards town. Grant gritted his teeth before urging his horse to follow the prints.
Zander listen to her, his confusion settle slightly, although he wished he knew who this man was. "Do you remember what he looked like? Anything about him?" he asked her as she explained what he had told her. He immediately wished he had gone with her to find her parents, had been there to protect her.
"I know you want to go warn the staff," he said, "but we still don't know who his informant is." He glanced behind him at the gazebo, Captain Thomas standing there. He was wondering if it could be him. He looked back at Sophie. "I'm going to tell Captain Thomas there will be no wedding, then I will meet you in our room to discuss this. We need to be in a place where there are not so many eyes."
Zander turned around and walked back toward the gazebo. He didn't have to fake a sour expression that was already on her face. "She called off the wedding," he told Captain Thomas, his voice filled with sorrow. "Thank you for your willingness to officiate." Zander turned away quickly and headed for the castle.
Marilyn loved listening to the birds, but she could tell something was bothering Grant. He seemed slightly uneasy. She left with him willingly to head back to the garden. She was excited to bring some plant from her home with her to Severijan.
Marilyn walked with Grant through the garden, pointing out all of her favorite flowers and plants. Some plants in this garden were not from Lirakin, but were some of her mother's favorites. She loved a few of them as well, but all of her favorites were from her home. "Will we ever be able to visit Lirakin?" she asked Grant, her voice soft. "Or will we stay in Severijan always?" She hoped that they could travel, but she didn't know if she would be able to.
Sophie looked up at Zander. All her words had died in her mouth, leaving a sour taste of guilt and regret. She locked her gaze with Zander before pulling the yellow handkerchief out from its hiding spot in the folds of her gown. She handed it over to Zander hoping he would understand what it meant or where it came from. Sophie sighed. “I’m sorry Zander. I…I overreacted… I was scared… I am still scared.”
Slowly she rose to her feet and timidly approached the prince. “There was a man. Somehow they managed to follow us from Cadeweth. They…he... was going to poison the entire royal family, Grant, mother and father. Even you. It wouldn’t be so bad but they have an informant in the castle. If I don’t comply with their demands they could have something far worse planned. I don’t know who we can trust. I over reacted…I know now and I am sorry but…”
Sophie threw her arms around Zander and hugged him close. “I can’t lose you. I can’t even deal with the thought of losing you. I’m not strong enough to cope with that. I love you too much!” She buried her face into his shoulder. Somehow holding on to Zander calmed the princess down. Sophie sighed. “What are we going to do?” She took a step back from Zander. Slowly she slipped the ring back on her finger, flashing a shy smile. “We made a promise to each other in Cadeweth that no matter what challenges rise against us we would face them together. I think this was a reminder that I need to rely on you as much as you rely on me.” She took Zander’s hands gently with her own. She smiled but then jumped. “We have to warn the kitchen staff and the servers!”
Grant held Marilyn close and listened to the song birds. Slowly a sense of uneasiness began to wash over him and for whatever reason he couldn’t shake it. Could it be he was worried about taking his bride back to Severijan? Was it that Grant was concerned what his father would think of Marilyn or could it have been something much closer and far more fearsome?
Grant sat up straight, rubbing his forehead, trying to get his worries to calm down. He gazed down at Marilyn and managed to smile down at Marilyn. “I think the birds have giving us a lovely concert but I think it might be time to let them rest their voices.” He stood up pulling her with him. “Let’s take another walk through the garden so you can point all your favorite plants. It will help me plan for your garden when we return to Severijan.” He gave Marilyn a kiss.
Zander was shocked, he didn't understand. First she screamed that she didn't love him, and now she was asking to call of the engagement temporarily. He couldn't have been more confused. Seeing the tears streaming down her face crushed him, but he was also hurt in another way. It always hurt him to see her upset, but now he was upset and that hurt too.
He tried to push his pain away, to be there for Sophie. He was a warrior, emotions were not to be shown, it was to distracting. This time he couldn't control it, his heart felt like an empty shallow black hole. He felt sick to his stomach. He didn't know if he could contain it, but he tried. "Sophie," he said, doing his best to keep his voice from shaking, "What's going on? I can help you if you tell me. Who is going to hurt Grant, Marilyn and the rest of your family?"
Marilyn smiled, hearing that she would still get to have a garden made her incredibly happy. Especially if it held Lirakin's plants, it would make it feel like home. She was still afraid to leave Lirakin, to miss her home and her family. She loved the people here, and this engagement protected them. She even loved Grant, which made this all more special.
She knew that she would love the people of Severijan, even if they didn't love her and her kind heart. She would still be herself, she was not going to change and become cold hearted from being in a cold hearted place. She smiled at Grant, her expression showing all of her kindness and love. She loved him and would love his people.
Marilyn was shocked to hear he didn't miss Severijan, but after some thought she began to understand. He was going to be going back within time, and he was in a new place to explore. He probably found comfort knowing he was going to return home. She was more than happy to sit and listen to the birds again, letting their song fill her ears. Being here with Grant made it even more of a blessing.
Sophie dropped her gaze to the ground. Her mind was a flurry of desperation. She could hear every thought in her head arguing for the correct solution; crying out for her to do something or even say something. Sophie just stood frozen. Even Zander’s voice barely registered in her ears. She looked up with painted smile. “Everything is fine Zander. It’s just…”
Sophie looked down at her feet. Could she really just brush of this threat? Her fists clenched as angry tears streamed from her eyes. If she ever saw that assassin again she would make him pay. There was no mercy in her heart for one who threatened her entire family. “Forgive me…” she breathed. Sophie raised her head to meet Zander’s eyes. Her eyes burned with fury that she fought with when she could saw the concern on her love’s face. There was a fierceness in her voice when Sophie finally found her words. “There isn’t going to be a wedding, Zander. This was a mistake.”
Her words sliced through the air like knives. She let the silence hang heavily over them for a second. “We can’t be together. It would never work… I don’t love you!” Sophie removed her ring. Her trembling had rose as if to throw it but slowly she lowered her hand. Tears poured down Sophie’s cheeks. She was tempted to drop the ring but her fingers wouldn’t uncoil from their death grip around the precious metal band. Her chest hurt and her eyes where squeezed close so she didn’t have to see the pain on Zander’s face. He had to leave. He had to so he and everyone else close to her could survive. Yet a dark thought tugged at her mind. If Zander got upset; regardless of how weakened his magic was in Lirakin, he could hurt himself or even worse and rush blindly into the conflict with Garth. This realization shock the girl to the core.
Sophie collapsed her knees, sobbing hard. It didn’t matter what she did, she ran the chance of losing him forever. “Please… you have to understand. This is bigger than the two of us now. I can’t risk Grant and Marilyn losing each other…or any of my family. Please! Just for now we have to call off the engagement…Just until I get to the bottom of this.” The princess clutched her jewelry close to her heart. The tears slowed down but Sophie refused to look up. “I…I’m so sorry Zander.”
Grant tilted his head to the side. “Well… we do have a garden. Mother planted it but the gardeners are not skilled at their occupation. They practically kill one plant for every one they sow. The situation can be rather amusing. I will have to find new gardeners so you can have the garden you deserve. I’ll even tear up Father’s training area to plant you a whole new one with as many plants from Lirakin that will grow in Severijan” Grant smiled softly at Marilyn. She would make a fine queen and help him usher in a new era of peace for the nations. Grant could sense that.
“I know you will give my people all the love in the world… whether we deserve it or not. I think it will take the people of Severijan some time to get used to your gentle heart but rest assured I will be there every step of the way.” Grant leaned back against the tree trunk lost in thought for a moment. He knew the truth of the warring country. The grim stories were close to the truth. Yet… he needed her to know this and be reassured he would protect her. “Severijan has valued brute strength and cunning minds. Many view kindness as showing weakness. My mother was very kind and the people feared she would give the kingdom weak heirs. I’ve been fighting my whole life to prove them wrong and live up to the vision of the ruler mother wanted me to be. It was rather difficult to do with my brothers strongly taking after my father. I don’t care what they think so long as you continue being you. We will prove them wrong.”
Grant shook his head. His expression on his stone grey face had become serious. “I do not miss Severijan. At least not at the moment. I think would miss it if I was to remain here in Lirakin. I would miss confusing the staff with my kind requests and saying thanks often. I would miss the dark stone walls of the castle and of the black tower of the coastal bastion. It looked down from the rocky cliff side to the choppy waters below. I’ve spent one too many nights alone there to avoid facing my father who was awaiting for me back at home.” He paused before pulling Marilyn close. “No, no I do not miss Severijan. It is great to be out from under father’s thumb. Now please let us sit here and just enjoy the peace and quiet together.” The prince had grown rather solemn and wished to keep his princess happy. He rested his head softly on hers and let the bird songs flood his ears with sweet notes.
Zander heard the Captain's words and turned his head, looking at Sophie. He hadn't known her for too long, but he knew her well enough to tell by the look on her face that something wasn't right. But what could it be? He looked from Captain Thomas to his soon to be bride. He stepped down from the gazebo and made his way to her.
Every possible thing that could be wrong was running through his head. He naturally over exaggerated everything when it came to Sophie, usually that is. His love for her blew everything out of proportion. The slightest little scratch had him worried. Zander was usually decently level headed, but not when it came to Sophie.
When he finally met her, it seemed like it took ages, he gazed into her eyes. He saw something there that wasn't right. "Sophie, Love, What's wrong?" he asked, his voice gentle and loving. "I believed you were bringing your parents with you. Was I mistaken?" He didn't know what she would tell him, but there was a bad feeling in his gut. One he was not fond of.
Marilyn loved sitting with Grant, the sound of the birds filled her ears while his sweet kisses peppered her face. Despite his frightening appearance, which Marilyn could now look past, Grant was one of the most loving and kind people she had ever met. His voice instantly took over the sound of the birds in her ears, not that she minded- his voice was just as gentle as the chirping songs she was listening to before.
His question took some thought, Marilyn had never thought of living anywhere other than Lirakin before Grant came into her life. "I'll miss my family, and having everyone that I care about so close. However, I know that I'll have you to give my love to. I hope I can give my love to the people of Severijan, just as much as I show it to the people here in Lirakin. I was afraid- that moving to Severijan meant there would be no more love in my life, no more beautiful gardens, no more warm sunshine. But I know that I will be okay now that I have you. I still have fear of moving, but that is not because of you. I am still afraid to live in a place that I don't know and understand yet."
She smiled at him, "Do you miss Severijan now? What do you miss?" She had accepted from the beginning that their life together would take place in a land completely unknown to her. While she is trying to keep positive about the experience for exploration, she is still scared and wants to learn as much as she can before she leaves.
Captain Thomas nodded. “I can do that for you two. As Captain of the royal guards I can oversee ceremonies that normally the king would. In the eyes of our law your marriage would be official.” He smiled and beckoned to Zander to lead the way to the location of the ceremony. The captain was more than happy to help the honorary princess get the beginning of her happily ever after.
Meanwhile, Sophie excitedly walked down the hallway of the castle in search of her parents. She couldn’t wait to tell them the news or even how to tell them the news. Sophie was certain they would be happy though. The princess turned the corner of the hallway and saw Veronica. The two girls just stared at each other unsure how to respond. Finally Sophie cleared her throat, “Umm… Hello Veronica. I was looking for my parents. You wouldn’t happen to know where they are?” Veronica slowly nodded. “They were just down the hallway to your right.” Sophie nodded. “Thank you.” She walked off to where the maid had instructed her to go noting how tense the other girl had been.
Sophie must have been several feet down the next hallway when someone grabbed her from behind. Her scream was muffled by the assailant’s hand. “Where do you think you’re going princess? I’m not here to hurt you. Oh no, I just wanted to warn you.” Sophie struggled against the gruff voiced man. Her ears were pinned back. She didn’t believe one word the man said. “You’re not going to escape so you might as well listen to our proposition. We want you to call of the engagement between Cadeweth and Lirakin.” Sophie turned her head to glare at the man. The look in her eyes rang out her response clearly. Never! The man chuckled. “Fine have it your way but I wonder what the people will think when they discover the Prince of Cadewth was poisoned.”
Sophie fought against the assassin when she heard his words. Inwardly she wished she had her sword with her. She wouldn’t let him harm Zander. Not if she could help it. The man tightened his grip until she was done with the struggling. “We thought that would get your attention. Call it off or they die. Not just your retched prince but all of them; the king, the queen, the other prince, your lovely sister. Oh and for extra measures we’ll poison the advisor and the lady-in-waiting, too.” By that point the princess was trembling from a mixture of fear and anger. It wasn’t a threat against just Lirakin and Cadeweth but her family. To add insult to injury the assailant whispered in her ear, “But you’ll be the only one left. Cadeweth will think you are a traitor and Severijan will cry for blood. Your kingdom will turn against you. You have to live with the guilt that you could have stopped it.”
Sophie jerked her head away. “How can I trust you? How do I know if I call it of that you won’t poison them anyway?” The assassin chuckled. He reached into a jacket pocket and removed a yellow handkerchief “We’ll know because you’ll tie this to third story balcony.” He dropped the cloth on the ground. “And what if I lie?” Sophie asked trying to weigh her option and see how much the man could reveal about their plan. “We have an unwilling informant that will confirm the truth so I suggest you do as we want.” He guided her over to the closest room, opened the door with his free hand, and shoved Sophie inside before slamming the door close. Sophie stumbled to the ground but bolted to her feet. She flung open the door but the man had vanished. Her trembling hand picked up the handkerchief.
Grant smiled and kissed Marilyn’s check. “I have so much love in my heart because you’re in it and don’t you ever forget it.” His amber eyes where soft and full of love. Grant brushed a strand of hair from Marilyn’s face before tilting her head up to plant a kiss on her lips. He loved her. Oh how he loved her. She was the light and hope in his dim little world and he swore he would protect her and care for her for the rest of his life. His lips lingered for a second before Grant pulled away to meet the princess’s gaze.
The prince gave a playful smile before pulling Marilyn closer to him. He peppered her face with swift kisses. Grant laughed. He was enjoying ever second with her. Honestly, he had been afraid to even hold Marilyn’s hand when in the presence of company. The way some of the guards watched him was certain they would have cut his hand clean off for simply trying to hold her hand. “Tell me Marilyn, what is your favorite thing about Lirakin? What will you miss the most?” Grant was trying to see if there was something he could do to make her more at home in Severijan once they were there.
Grant went to look up at the tree branches above them but stopped when he saw Sophie walking on the way to the Gazebo. “Look Marilyn, there’s your sister. I wonder where she’s headed in such a hurry. Where’s Zander?” He turned to Marilyn and shrugged off the questions he had just asked. He didn’t want to ruin the moment they were having.
At the Gazebo, Captain Thomas scanned around for Sophie while he waited with Zander. “There’s your bride Zander. Wait. Why isn’t Annalise and Victor with her? Didn’t you say she wanted her parents to be present?” Sophie stopped at the tree line. She couldn’t get her feet to go a step closer. What could she do? What could she say? The princess was desperate to protect the ones she cared about yet she couldn’t bring herself to break Zander’s heart to do so.
Zander smiled at her, "That sounds lovely. Let's have it in the Gazebo. We won't get to have much of a ceremony in Cadeweth. Our marriage will be tied with my corrination ceremony." Zander had always known he would never get a real wedding, but Sophie probably hadn't grown up knowing that. If he could give her what she always wanted, he would do it in a heart beat.
Zander nodded and went to find the Captain while she looked for her parents. As he was walking, he couldn't help but feel like this was one of his last days in Lirakin. His gut was telling him that his duties to his own country would call him away. He didn't want to miss the ball, or have Sophie miss the ball, but he couldn't help but thinking it was inevitable.
Zander found Captain Thomas and approached him. He explained the situation to the Captain and ended with, "Sophie said she wanted you to ordain the ceremony, if you don't mind."
Once the prince had gotten Captain Thomas he went to the gazebo, waiting to meet his bride.
Marilyn looked at the rose as it was handed to her. She tried to be careful not to grab the thorns when she noticed they were gone. Expertly removed, and leaving the stem round and smooth. She knew that Grant was a revered warrior, but the fact that he had used his skills on a flower amazed her. A florist couldn't have done a better job. "It's beautiful Grant. Thank you," she spoke to him softly.
Marilyn looked around at the flowers in the garden. She had been coming her since she was a little girl, and the flowers had begun to seem less and less beautiful. However, when she was here with Grant she noticed each flower and how beautiful it was again.
As Grant lead her to where they could listen to the birds she got more and more excited. She loved the time that they were spending together. It made her forget all of the struggles between their countries and their people. She only thought about him and her. There was nothing else that they needed to worry about.
He sat down on the grass, and spread his jacket out so she could sit with him. She smiled and gratefully took her seat next to him. She couldn't have been more happy in his arms. "You're so kind Grant, and you seem to have so much love in your heart," she told him, leaning against his shoulder. She couldn't have been happier anywhere else.
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